Anya and Sappho’s Birthday

In the first three minutes after they met each other Anya from Twin Oaks and Sappho from Acorn found out that they shared the same birthday, Nov 20. And from then on they have been thick as thieves.

anya and sappho bday

Commune Birthday Girls

Sappho just turned 9 and Anya just turned 7 and both communities celebrated in their own ways. At first this was not the plan. At first Anya, who has every birthday since the first at Twin Oaks was going to share her birthday with Sappho and they would celebrate it together at Twin Oaks which is larger, has a bunch of kids, and has expansive public space which can easily accommodate a largish, rambunctious kid birthday party without impacting anything else.

Acorn was having none of it. Sappho was our kid (this being her very first birthday party at the commune) and she would have a party at Acorn, whether she wanted one or not!  It ended up being an entirely adult party, except for the birthday girl herself.

birtdhday cake surreal

There were sweets and singing of songs, but it was not like most 9 year old birthdays in a number of ways. First off, birthday cakes were replaced by cupcakes. A lack of candles led to the hippie rig of putting wooden matches into the cupcakes, which worked poorly. Most kids get an off key rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” (which I consider the worst song ever.) Sappho and Anya instead got the Viking birthday dirge.

[chanted drearily]

It’s your birthday [thump] happy birthday [thump]

Death, destruction, and despair
People dying everywhere

It’s your birthday [thump] happy birthday [thump]

May the cities in your wake
Burn like candles on your cake

It’s your birthday [thump] happy birthday [thump]

Now you are the age you are
Your demise cannot be far

It’s your birthday [thump] happy birthday [thump]

Indigestion’s what you get

from the enemies you ‘et

It’s your birthday [thump] happy birthday [thump]

One day closer to death



Cupcake Factory

There was a white elephant present exchange in which the birthday girls gathered a bunch of their books and toys and wrapped them. Then they played a game where attendees chose presents but could also swap them for another one of the presents already taken. This reversal of conventional gift giving was more fun and engaged more people.


Painting the birthday bookcase

In a new birthday tradition, Gryphon grabbed a bookshelf sorely needed for Sappho’s room and delivered it to the party, where the decoration of it became a party event.

It’s okay to grow older, just never grow up.


The Best Xmas present – a new life

You have these friends, who are stuck in their situation. Some combination of things in their lives are not working very well. Their jobs are a dead end. Their relationship is holding them back. Their social scene is deadening. What you really want to get them for a holiday present is a completely different life. You know they deserve much more and it’s heart breaking for you to see them stuck like this.

enough about my job

I have the perfect present. The entry way to a new life.

The new community directory is a single volume which describes and categorizes over 700 communities in the US. What your friend needs to do is to find their clan and their new life in one of these places where cooperation and sharing resources have been taken to a higher level. Perhaps the best way to get out from under that terrible boss is to move to a cooperative business. Perhaps shaking up their social scene will come from choosing to live with people who have shared values.

life begins here chinese window.jpg

Or perhaps not

There really is only one way for them to find out: to get the communities directory. And for the next 57 days you can get an advance copy for the crazy low price of $25, including shipping.

The organizers of the fundraising campaign here have gotten a bit daring. They are doing a threshold-based campaign, which means if they don’t get all the money, then they get nothing. This is my call to you to match their daring. Get this campaign to go viral. Put it up on your Facebook page, write about it in your blog (or simply re-blog mine) and if anyone knows how to make Reddit really work, it would be great there.

Communities Directory 7 Cover Draft (1)

And these unspecified friend I’m talking about,  might well include you. Be your own best friend and recognize that community life might well be better than what you are currently doing and you should get the directory for yourself and chart a path away from the troublesome waters you might be finding yourself in.

arches become boats.jpg

Don’t let stable structures keep you from exploring

If you do decide to support this campaign, i would ask you to add one penny to your total, so we can see who found out about it thru this blog post.  Big Thanks.




The Problem with Paris

There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it.  The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it.  Almost.

We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled  media.  We know all about how innocent the victims were.  We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks.    And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified.  Except we are wrong.

France is not starting a war with ISIL  because of these recent attacks on Paris.  France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria.  Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL.  Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:

By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.

But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks.  It gets worse.

cartoon US rousing hornets in Syria

Those who fail to learn from the past …

Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago.  This western supported resistance became ISIS.

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks.  If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were.  If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”.  Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:

  1. US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
  2. US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
  3. US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine

One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Back to Paris.    The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention.  Why no attention?  One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years.  But i believe the reason is deeper.  We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.

beirut and paris candle

Do i condone these attacks on Paris?  Certainly not.  But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.

Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:


We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.

From Sara Tansey’s blog on raising anti-racist kids

We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.

An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.

At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

ISIS takes no prisoners

ISIS takes no prisoners assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.

But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.

I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL.   The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis.  But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.

  1. ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.

Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.

The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:

  • That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
  • That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
  • That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
  • That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
  • That is has different meanings in the plural form

An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL

“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”


Beyond Brittle Agreements – Workshop Description

Beyond Brittle Agreements:

What the Communes can teach about real Sharing

3 PM to 3:50 New School NYC Saturday Nov 14, 2015 Part of Platform Cooperativism

Room U622 @ 66 5th Avenue Manhattan, NY near the Union Square subway station.

The extraction economies of AirBnB and Uber have hot wired the “sharing economy” with insurance, marketing and economies of scale.  But there is another way.  Income sharing intentional communities have been operating the real sharing economy since well before these upstarts by using trust and enhanced communication techniques.

hands sharingThis workshop explores how these communities have successfully shared cars, clothes, buildings, bicycles, businesses and bank accounts for nearly half a century.  These techniques have allowed their members to live an upper middle class lifestyle on an income of less than half the poverty line while also emitting 1/5 the carbon of their mainstream counterparts.

Learn how to avoid brittle agreements and other pitfalls that plague most efforts to construct truly cooperative ownership systems.  Functional trust building takes more than a great user interface.  Robust communication requires more than high speed broadband.  Place based intentional communities have lessons for the virtual world, which if ignored will likely leave the sharing economy in the hands of the extractors.  

A beautiful girl sitting on her bed and witnessing the distruction of a city at the window, as a projection of her thoughts turned into reality.This image is a digitally enahnced portrait which is enriched with details given by real photographs and hand/painted elements, wisely merged and manipulated to create a very realistic looking picture.

Is cooperativism a disruptive technology? Only if we are lucky

The workshop facilitators:

Paxus Calta lives at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia and is a co-founder of the Point A project which is starting income sharing communities in urban areas of the northeast US.  He blogs and builds place based non-extractive sharing systems.  He is also involved in starting new income sharing communities in Vermont, Colorado and California.

GPaul Blundell is a member of Acorn Community and the other co-founder of the Point A project.  He is currently in Washington DC founding an ambitions engaged income sharing community inside the city limits.  He analyzes European and US income sharing communities and designs and builds coliving and coworking buildings.  

“How much is this stuff really worth?”  Perhaps this is the wrong question

“How much is this stuff really worth?” Perhaps this is the wrong question

This workshop is half presentation and half small group discussions on how and why most non-hierarchical sharing systems fail and how to avoid this when porting them to the virtual world.

“How much is this stuff really worth?”  Perhaps this is the wrong question

Nuking clean energy: how nuclear power makes wind and solar harder

Don’t be fooled by “All of the Above” as an energy strategy.  This article describes how choosing nuclear power means making it harder for real renewables like wind and solar to come to Virginia.  Useful reading.

Source: Nuking clean energy: how nuclear power makes wind and solar harder

Communes and TV Puff Pieces

The Yahoo Parenting and ABC Nightline news pieces have drawn attention to Twin Oaks in the small screen media world. Most recently they have brought Richmond’s ABC affiliate.

There are a number of minor parts of the reporting that are wrong. They mess up the sequence of the visitor period and acceptance process. They also said we had a waiting list, which as of recently, is not actually true.

Keenan and one of the few pictures which makes us look densely built. Photo Credit: WRIC

Keenan and one of the few pictures which makes us look densely built. Photo Credit: WRIC

But overall, it portrays the community accurately and is mostly upbeat.

Whenever the mainstream media comes, it attempts to exotify us. The reporter said basically, “You can live in this comfortable paradise, but you have to give up most of your material possessions.” What is true is that you can bring whatever fits in your room and a bike. You can bring larger furniture items if you are willing to lend them to the community (you can take them when you go if you want) for use in the common spaces.

For many people, this represents a significant scaling down of what they have. No one says, “You have to give them up.” It is not a mandate from the community. If you move to a smaller place, you shed things.

Scott working the saw mill, less noble then tech work?

Scott working the saw mill. Is this less noble then tech work?

The video makes a point of mentioning that Scott, who is running the saw mill, used to be a computer programmer. It implies that he gave up programming to do this lower paying work. However, Scott does not think about it this way.

Perhaps in an effort to make home viewers comfortable, the news people talk about how this would not work for them or how they can’t imagine seeing their colleagues at a place like Twin Oaks. The terms “hippies” and “communists” are thrown at us and quickly batted away. You can try to see it as stereotypical or comically diminished, but really what is happening here is more complex and i would argue more important.

Customs Confusion

The organizer’s prerogative is to travel light.  You don’t need to bring everything if you can talk others into lending or giving it to you.  They might do this in service of the revolution or because you are cute or pathetic.

Pack Light

Pack Light

I was coming back from a tour of Europe.  The customs agent was looking at my small handbag.

“How long have you been traveling in Europe?” he asked.

“Three weeks,” i confessed

“Where are the rest of your bags?” says the skeptical border control agent.

“This is all i have,” i said, again confessing.

“I don’t believe you,” says the guard and there is this impossible moment which flashed between the two of us.

I put my hands across my chest and look curiously at the agent, asking, “What are we going to do about that?”

The agent waves me through.

deport stamp


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